An overheard conversation

Tempting as it is to start 2018 with just an “uh oh” we’re going to have to dig a bit deeper to work out how to get out of this societal cul-de-sacPossibly a little late in the democratic process, but people, It’s time to actually talk. What follows is an overheard conversation that took place as part of our Thinkers in residence project about what happens to us when we’ve got our backs against the wall.



Thinker 1 “Noa’s Arkism is, well, things are going to get very bad but I’m going to keep myself in a mindset where I can maintain that I’ve got the resources to battle it out….there’s a danger that if we forget about our real dependencies, on food, a stable climate…then we think that we can do it all ourselves or by technology, our culture drives that as well. Political framing drives it so that we start othering people – those people won’t have the resources and its because they aren’t as good as we are. You get all kinds of splitting into us and them…we imagine somehow that we’re not really going to be affected”



Thinker 2 “Psychoanalysis helps us get to the blood and guts of those mechanisms…it explains our compulsion to deny what’s happening to our climate because in order to believe somehow that you’ve got a place on the Ark you’ve got to split, to create a line between the established and the disestablished. Often in left-wing critiques of what’s happening in Greece and the refugee crisis…some people describe this as the precariat – this new underclass that is growing all of the time…and one of the shocks to the system is that previously safe middle class and relatively affluent people are feeling the shift….so the viciousness of holding this line of who is going to get on the ark becomes more powerful..I think of this in terms of solidarity, the seduction that even if we’re the underdogs we’re the underdogs together but of course the reality is that solidarity doesn’t come naturally to any of us in a situation of scarce resources. That in fact solidarity is something you have to reorganise internally and externally in order for it to stand a chance because there is every reason why once things get split they will split again depending on what resources are available.”



Thinker 1 “There are all these dissociated frameworks, I call them frameworks of un-care that allow us to think in this uncaring way….I think this work has profound things to say about what we won’t allow ourselves to see….the psychological implications of this are huge in relation to denial…and the actual historical moment we’re in…unless we can take on board what our culture has encouraged in us, that we don’t need to own our own part in this…our own bits of destructiveness…that ‘no’ is an inner surveillance operating. I’m putting up a wall there where I don’t want to have to think to recognise that I’m involved, what can and can’t I do in the current situation. How can I care in a culture that makes it so hard to care?”



Thinker 2 “I wish you’d been here last time, I spent all of my time in the next room looking at Tobias Zeilony’s work about refugees and it left me feeling quite nervous. …it’s laid out like a newspaper but the story hasn’t been written. So I realised that I was confronted with me filling in the story and I found that quite challenging…as painful as it is to read the narratives about the refugees I’ve got used to someone moralising at me but what’s even more upsetting is I have to confront how I actually feel about that. That was the first time that I could see the link between these two bodies of work in the same room, about confronting the personal denial. Well, we’ve really understood something there.”



This conversation between Sally Weintrobe and Elizabeth Cotton took place as part of our Thinkers in Residence programme at the Photographer’s Gallery in London, looking at the work of Trevor Paglin.



To hear a clip from this conversation click here.
To hear the full conversation click here.


To look at the online archive of this project click HERE.


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